Rwanda is located in an east Africa south of the equator. Although small, Rwanda is known as a land of a thousand hills because its landscapes spans Virunga Mountains in the north, Albertine rift valley lakes in the north west, savannah and wetlands on the eastern border with Tanzania.
The country has only 4 national parks but what makes it popular for adventure tourism are the mountain gorillas. Volcanoes National Park has habituated 10 gorilla families which attract for visitors for gorilla tracking safaris. Despite the high cost of Rwanda gorilla permits at $1500 per person, its clear that safe guarding the future of mountain gorillas is more important.
While there are a few wildlife parks, don’t underestimate the greatness of a safari to Rwanda. besides gorillas, Rwanda offers primate tracking adventures, birding, wildlife viewing, beach spots, volcano hiking and culture. Rwanda wildlife includes mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, big 5 mammals, birds and so much more. If what you want is not found in Rwanda, its better you combine Rwanda and Uganda which gives you a lot of choice.
Going on safari to Rwanda, here are the most popular attractions.
Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes national park is home to mountain gorillas which are the main tourist attraction in Rwanda. The park lies in Virunga Mountains in Musanze district northern Rwanda, just 90 minutes drive from Kigali city. Guided gorilla tracking is an opportunity for 8 tourists per day to see one of the 10 habituated gorilla families in their natural habitat. Though gorillas make this park a popular place to visit, there are rare primates called golden monkeys which visitors can also track and see. Volcanoes Park is also a spectacular place to hike Virunga Mountains and spot some of the 178 species of birds including Albertine rift endemics.
Inside the park there’s Karisoke research center established by Dian Fossey to conserve and protect gorillas, it is a learning center for students and scientists.
Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe forest national park is located in southwestern Rwanda about 7 hours drive from Kigali international airport. The park protects one of the largest tropical rainforests home to 13 species of primates including chimpanzees, colobus monkeys and a variety of 400 birds, butterflies and trees.
There is a canopy walk that is the biggest in East Africa. The views from the 50 to 80 meters high are breathtaking. The suspended bridges allow visitors to walk in the treetops where birds, primates can be seen.
Chimpanzee tracking is the main activity where you go in search to see habituated chimpanzee troops. Among other species of primates to see include troops of up to 300 black and white clobus monkeys among others such as red tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, olive baboons.
There are over 10 hiking trails that will take you through the dense vegetation to search for birds including Albertine rift valley endemic species. Nature walks to waterfalls, and the Congo and Nile Rivers are divided by a ridge. Outside the park, there are green tea plantations and biking is a preferred activity.
Akagera National Park
Akagera national park was named after the Akagera River that meanders through the park and forms a large wetland along with several lakes. Much of the 1200 sq km area is covered by beautiful savannah grasslands and acacia woodlands home to large mammals such as elephants, buffaloes, zebras, giraffes, topi, and eland. Some of the big five mammals that had been lost due to poaching were recently brought back including black rhino and lion. Game drive safaris give visitors an opportunity to encounter wildlife. There are also 500 species of birds found in the park and is great for bird watching. Boat cruises along Ihema the largest of the lakes allow close encounters with Hippos and crocodiles.
Lake Kivu lies in the rift valley south west of Rwanda and stretches over the border into the DR Congo. Being the only lake with white sand beaches and crocodile free blue waters, it a popular hangout place to enjoy outdoors such as swimming, kayaking, and boat cruise. For travelers, Lake Kivu is a place to end your safari, relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Visitors can also enjoy exploring the lakeside towns such as Gisenyi where visitors can visit some of the hot springs or go for biking trails around the lake.
In 1994 approximately 800,000 people were killed during the Rwanda genocide against Tutsi that lasted for 100 days. 24 years later today there are still people who survived the genocide but most important Rwandan built genocide museums and memorials so that the victims are never forgotten. There are memorials such as the Gisozi genocide memorial, Ntarama and Nyamata churches, Rebero memorial, camp Kigali among others which are tributes to the victims. While you visit Rwanda to have fun, it is good to visit the sites for remembrance and learning history, and appreciating life and the future of Rwanda. A trip to these memorials can be done as part of the Kigali city tour.
Ethnographic museum in Butare
Just 1-hour drive South of Kigali in the small town of Huye is the ethnographic museum which reveals the culture and history of Rwanda and much about Africa. The large and spacious seven galleries allow visitors to see display of ethnographic collections, archeological artifacts, art works including traditional costumes, handicrafts and many amazing pieces. The visitor will be able to learn much about Rwanda with the aid of a guide and diagrams.
Iby’Iwacu cultural village
This cultural village is located outside volcanoes national park and it showcases the traditional village life of Rwandan local community who are the Hutu, Tutsi and BaTwa pygmies. These people have dedicated their efforts into preservation of their culture, sustainable farming as ways to help conserve gorillas and their natural habitat. the cultural village center offers accommodation in African huts, arts, crafts and traditional dance performances, demonstrations on the traditional healers, weaving Agaseke baskets, BaTwa pottery and wood carvings, how to store food in granaries and nature walks. For visitors tracking gorillas, it is worth taking a cultural tour to gain an in-depth understanding of African culture experience at Iby Iwacu village.
Kigali is the capital city of Rwanda. It has been mentioned among the top African green and clean cities. That is because Rwanda started out measures to fight environmental degradation such as banning use of polythene and plastic bags. The city has also transformed its infrastructure with a focus on modern roads, public transportation and world class MICE facilities such as the Kigali convention center. the city is good for cycling trips due to good tracks. There are historical and cultural heritage sites which attract tourists such as as genocide memorials and museums that commemorate victims of the genocide against Tutsi in 1994 as well as history and culture of Rwanda. There are also many recreations centers including golf courses, hotel Rwanda and many others.
Twin lakes of Burera and Rubondo
Located in the shadow of Virunga Mountains, the twin lakes of burera and Ruhondo are one of Rwanda’s scenic locations. They are especially popular for canoeing, boat cruise, hiking, photography the thousand hills scenery. They can be accessed by visitors in volcanoes national park.